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Astor Avenue neighbors uncomfortable after hearing

The aftermath of the third Board of Standards and Appeals (BSA) public hearing on a proposed Astor Avenue medical facility has neighbors concerned.

On Tuesday, January 12, Astor Avenue neighbors, joined by Councilman Jimmy Vacca and representatives from the offices of Senator Jeff Klein, Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., Community Board 11 and the Allerton Avenue Homeowners and Tenants Association, met at 40 Rector Street in Manhattan to share fears about the unspecified medical facility set for 1464 Astor Avenue.

Prior to the second hearing, in November, BSA commissioners requested that the facility’s developer, Les Lerner of LAL Astor Avenue Management, alter his plans to include a larger barrier between proposed parking spots and neighbor homes. Lerner agreed to reduce the depth of the facility from roughly 154 feet to 107 feet but added a third story. His altered plan listed the facility at 10,000 square feet, the same as before. Lerner also added one additional parking spot to the 20 originally proposed.

On January 12, BSA commissioners requested that a fence, part of the barrier, be enlarged from four to six feet tall. They requested that Lerner provide details on how he plans to light the parking lot, as well.

BSA commissioners also requested that the developer perform a new traffic study at a site more similar to 1464 Astor Avenue to determine how increased traffic would affect the neighborhood.Lerner based his original traffic study on a site on Northern Boulevard in Queens.

“I went to the hearing because I thought it was important to state that I feel the applicant has not answered questions, even questions that the commissioners have posed,” Vacca said.“You can’t compare Astor Avenue to Northern Boulevard.I also think the scope of this proposal can be reduced.[Lerner is] proposing to go to 10,000 square feet when [he]has no tenant.Where did this magic number come from?”

Many Astor Avenue residents feel that concerns related to Engine Company 97, at 1454 Astor Avenue, remain overlooked.Thanks to Klein, a memo from Fire Department Chief of Operations Robert F. Sweeney was submitted to the BSA. Sweeny requested an environmental impact study to determine whether Lerner’s construction would impinge on the structural integrity of the firehouse.He also highlighted operational issues; construction and increased traffic could delay the fire company’s response time.

In response to Sweeny’s letter, the BSA requested that Lerner investigate the proximity of his proposed curb cuts to the firehouse.

Additionally, the BSA instructed Lerner to review nearby medical facilities and set office hours that make sense for the neighborhood.

“We are trying to do as much as we can to minimize the impact on the community and I think we are addressing the issues that have been raised,” said Lerner’s attorney, Adam Rothkrug of Rothkrug Rothkrug & Spector.

Astor Avenue neighbors are hopeful that the BSA will push Lerner to do even more, Eastchester Road resident Anjali Kochar said. The neighbors plan to meet regularly before the fourth hearing, scheduled for Tuesday, February 9.

“I am continually impressed by the energy and determination on the part of our elected officials and community members to understand and investigate the issue at hand,” Kochar said.“This is not over yet.”

Reach reporter Amanda Marinaccio at 718 742-3394 or amarinaccio@cnglocal.com

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